LOS ANGELES — The world of opera could soon be all aflutter with an American husband and wife team set to win hearts and take over as its new first couple.
Long-time favorites Italian and Romanian husband-and-wife duo Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorgiu may be passing the torch -- to Americans Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez.
Costello and Perez have everything they need to become the new star couple of opera: they're glamorous, likeable, and above all, talented. They have both won the prestigious Richard Tucker Prize, given annually to the best emerging American singers.
And starting May 12, the tenor and the soprano will be on stage together at the Los Angeles Opera, performing in filmmaker Herbert Ross's production of the classic Puccini opera, "La Boheme."
Since Alagna and Gheorgiu first appeared together in the 1990s, the opera world has been crazy for the duo, looking for them hand-in-hand on stage and around town. The two, nicknamed the "Bonnie and Clyde" of opera, were even married on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
That star lost luster recently when the couple began divorce proceedings (they have since reconciled), leaving Costello and Perez in position to inherit the mantle of opera's favorite on-stage/off-stage romantic pairing.
But the Americans say, unlike their predecessors, they don't plan to restrict themselves to always performing together.
"We love touring together but we would never pressure a company to hire us both at the same time," tenor Costello told AFP.
"You don't really grow as an artist working with each other all the time," he said, explaining growth comes from "watching and working with other people, seeing how different people handle things."
The couple says they are also avoiding the relationship pitfall of competing against one another.
"She sang in a production with Barenboim and Domingo and I haven't sung with them. But I have sung at the Met (in New York)," which Perez hasn't yet done, Costello noted. "Like in every couple, you just support what the other is doing."
"The priority is each other," Perez added, "and the career is secondary."
The couple performed together to acclaim in "La Traviata" this winter, which they say gives them confidence in taking on "La Boheme."
The 30-year-old tenor and the 31-year-old soprano, married in 2008, met while studying at Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts, one of the most prestigious singing schools in the United States.
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